Rodents as disease vehicles.
In the past century alone, more than 10 million people have died from rodent-borne diseases. Although rodents are not major threats to our everyday health, it is justified to be concerned over the potential for rodents to transmit diseases. By their very nature and design, rodents make excellent “vehicles” for harbouring and rapidly transporting diseases.
Let’s examine why...
Co-Existence with Humans & Investigative Behaviour
Rodents are well adapted to living with or in close proximity to humans. They and their parasites share our homes. They nest and sleep in the furniture where we relax, sleep, and store our clothing – and we don’t even realize it. Obviously, we are quite vulnerable to the potential spread of any pathogens carried by rodents.
Transporters of Pathogens & Parasites
Rodents harbour a wide range of parasites such as mites and ticks that carry lethal pathogens. Even without parasites, rodents can directly transmit deadly germs excreted in their urine and faeces.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Rodents fly with us, drive with us, and live on the ships, buses, and such that transport us and our food around the globe. A hitchhiking rodent with its hitchhiking parasites and pathogens can go from one end of the planet to another in the time it takes to fly aboard our super jets.
In one week’s time rodents produce hundreds of faecal pellets and deposit urine in thousands of areas. The pathogens may also be deposited via saliva and blood spewed during rodent fights. Finally, rodents shed their hair daily and lose an entire coat twice a year. In this way, millions of rodent hairs and hair fragments, possibly containing pathogens, are also deposited into our environment.
Inside our buildings where food, water, and shelter are readily available, rodents can breed prolifically. This results in tens or hundreds of rodents living and moving about in our homes. Disease organisms present within these populations can spread rapidly to infect areas, people, and pets.
|Description:||Skin lesions, fever, headaches, arthralgias|
|Mode of Transmission:||Rodent tick bite|
|Comments:||This is the most common and widespread tick-borne disease in the northern hemisphere|
Salmonella (Food Poisoning)
|Description:||Causes intestinal disorders|
|Mode of Transmission:||Rodent faeces contamination|
|Comments:||The World Health Organization estimates that 20% of food is destroyed or contaminated every year by rodents|
|Description:||Relapsing fever that may last several months|
|Mode of Transmission:||Bacteria in mouth and nose of rodent, transmitted via bite or scratch|
|Comments:||Occurs worldwide, but is most common in Asia|
|Description:||Flu-like symptoms, renal failure, severe respiratory distress|
|Mode of Transmission:||In faeces, urine, body fluids|
|Comments:||HV outbreak in 1994 resulted in more than 50 deaths in the US. At least 7 different strains of HV have been identified|
|Description:||Fever, headache, rash, respiratory attack|
|Mode of Transmission:||Rat flea bite|
|Comments:||Port cities or riverine environments often serve as havens for rats harbouring fleas.|
|Description:||Attacks circulatory & respiratory systems|
|Mode of Transmission:||Rodent flea bite or by handling an infected animal|
|Comments:||Millions of people in Europe died from plague in the Middle Ages; plague still occurs in many parts of the world|
|Description:||Lesion followed by fever, headache, rash|
|Mode of Transmission:||Bite of a mite which lives on mice|
|Comments:||An outbreak of this disease occurred in 1946 in housing developments in New York City which were overrun with mite-infested mice|
Rodent infestations should be controlled with the use of multiple solutions including traps and rodenticide baits. Preventative control is also an important aspect.
Be sure to rodent-proof your home, blocking any potential access. All sources of food and water should be eliminated. Proper garden management should be practiced to limit outdoor shelter, including the elevation of woodpiles and rubbish bins at least 30cm off the ground.
Water-resistant gloves should always be worn when removing deceased rodents. Rodents should either be burned or placed in well-sealed plastic bags.
When you begin cleaning, it is important that you do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up droppings or urine. Also be sure to open windows to properly ventilate the area. Mix one part bleach with eight parts water. Wearing water-resistant gloves disinfect area with the solution. Under no circumstances should you ever come in direct contact with rodent droppings.
Avoid Outdoor Contact
Avoid rodent burrows and do not disturb dens. If camping, do not pitch tents near rodent burrows or if you see other signs of faeces. Do not sleep on the bare ground - it is best to be at least 30cm off the ground. Keep all food in containers, and bury rubbish to prevent rodents from investigating the area in search of food.